Carnival King of Europe

Finding common ground:

How ancient folk festivals and carnival rituals unite Europe

In a great number of rural communities from the Balkans to Iberia, across Central Europe, the Alps and the Italian peninsula, striking similarities can be observed in the winter ‘carnival’ rituals that anticipate the onset of the new farming year.

These include: the appearance of stocky masked mummers wearing cowbells, followed by slender white dancers wearing tall conical caps; a mock wedding procession in conjunction with the ritual ploughing of the village square; the occurrence of ‘the bear’ and the bear chase; and the trial and sentencing to death of a pivotal gure, often identied with ‘Carnival’ itself.

At present, ethnologists and culture historians have no single explanation to offer for the widespread occurrence of this phenomenon across Europe. However, it is clear that this particular set of rituals is a shared European cultural trait, at least as far as its original, dispersed agrarian setting is concerned.

The project aimed to promote awareness of carnival lore among young Europeans, as well as establish a professional network for specialists in the field to contribute to research on European carnival studies. Reaching out to local communities, it also gave European citizens the chance to feel connected with a transnational community embracing the whole of Europe.

Dates : 14/11/2007-13/11/2009
Lead organiser : Museo degli Usi e Costumi della Gente Trentina, Italy
Co-organisers :
Ethnographic Institute and Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Bulgaria
Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée, France
Etnografski Muzej, Croatia
Nacionalna Ustanova Muzej na Makedonija, FYROM

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